Like everyone else who was not part of the internal deal negotiation team at Oculus I was surprised by the news that Facebook bought Oculus. Surprised yes... but not disappointed. Euphoric actually.
Most of you don't know me personally. I'm an Oculus dev like many who post in these forums. I'm not a lurker but I focus on what interests me about Oculus and the Rift and don't dwell on my personal history in tech too much.
What is different perhaps is that I have been involved in software development for 20+ years. Through luck or good decision making it has been my lot in life to mostly be working with tech that is at the very beginning of the early adopter phase.
I started in multimedia when they first coined the term by building one of the first interactive virtual museums on CD-ROM technology... I worked at the company that created the first interactive titles for Prince and Bob Dylan. I built an e-commerce site on the Internet when the internet had only a few million users...
I was there when Steve Jobs launched NeXT after being kicked out of Apple... I was also at Boston Macworld when Steve Jobs returned to Apple and announced that MicroSoft had bought 150 million shares of Apple stock to help keep Apple afloat until Steve could show one more thing again and again... (And yes, some in the audience booed loudly then too..). I started doing dev work in mobile before smart phones were something everyone owned... and so on.
I tell you these things not to boast about my own accomplishments but to give some weight and meaning to my words.
To me every one of these advances in technology... has been leading up to the day when I would strap on some VR goggles with headphones and if the future worked out as planned a haptic suit that would allow me and millions of others to experience what we can not easily experience in real life... a different reality... VR gives all of us that chance...
We are fortunate that Oculus and the tech industry have the people with the passion to make this incredible technology into a consumer product. When I first heard about the Rift I read everything I could find about it... I built my own DIY Rift HMD because I could not stand idly by waiting for the DK1 to arrive...
And then I heard about Ready Player One by Ernest Cline from the Oculus blog. I jumped online and ordered the Audio CD. I listened enraptured by the plot twists, delightful characters and wonderful story telling which made me believe that our VR future was no longer looking like science fiction, but science fact.
I was so enthused that when I found out Oculus was going to demo the Rift at the GDC last year I made an immediate plan to leave my work and attend the show by traveling from Seattle to San Francisco at my own expense. I arrived the night before checked into my hotel and woke up early the next day so I could be in the front of the line at the exhibit hall opening day.
Luckily I was one of the first through the door who sprinted to the Oculus booth so I could see what the future might look like and how I could help develop for it. After my demo I hung around and asked many questions then headed out to see the rest of the show. I was at another booth far from Oculus when I happened to see Palmer talking to someone about display technology.
After their conversation ended the other person shook his hand and left. I saw Palmer standing alone looking at some of the booths. I recognized my chance and walked up and introduced myself. I explained how I came to be there and thanked him and his team for getting the Rift to the demo stage at the show. I mentioned I was introduced to "Ready Player One" via the Oculus blog. This turned into a 20 minute discussion about how the future of VR might look very much how it looks in the book and what it would take to get it there.
I was doubly impressed that the busiest person at GDC that day took the time to talk to me about a book that we both attached a great deal of value to. He was truly excited that I was an Oculus Rift dev and thanked me for my support. After he left I have to say I felt like I had talked to a passionate evangelist for VR who also happened to be a founder of Oculus. I myself left both impressed and inspired (But first took a picture with my iPhone! See below.).
Fast forward to today. I realize that it is hard to see the future. It was hard to see how and why Microsoft investing in Apple was good for Apple devs and the future of Apple itself at the time.
Technology and business are almost always at an intersection. It may not seem obvious where the road will lead but it does seem wise to let the people who helped get us to the crossroads continue to navigate further down the road with our support. I support Palmer, Oculus, Nate and the dev team at Oculus. And yes Facebook/Mark too. I say give them a chance to show us how the business and technology will converge to provide the VR future we all dream of.
Virtual Reality is more than one or two companies. It is the evolution of an entire industry leading us to a very bright future indeed. Let's not close our eyes going forward instead let's give the pioneers a chance to make the best VR consumer launch possible. If they fail others will pick up the trail and blaze forward in their wake. For now we can all be incredibly excited about how far we have all come and how far we can all go.
I know I am and I hope you will see it the same way as well. Congrats to the Oculus Team. Here is my virtual handshake saying "Job well done", now get to work guys!